Saturday, July 23, 2005
Poha--Indian DelicacyThe saga of rice continues. Only this time, it's a different version -- flattened rice known as Chirva, Chira or Poha in different parts of India. This beaten rice is a versatile snack item in the eastern, western and southern regions of India. For the purpose of this entry let's call it poha.
Mainly a breakfast feature, poha can be had in different ways. One way is to soak it in water (becomes mushy), add milk, sugar and fruits to it (mainly bananas or mangoes). Or you can use yogurt in place of milk.
Deep fried poha, with a generous dose of peanuts and a dash of salt and pepper is one of my favourtie tea-time snacks. This can also be preserved in jars over a brief period of time.
However, the dish I like the most made of this grain is itself called Poha. It belongs to the western Indian state of Maharashtra and has become a highly popular snack all over India. It's simple to make and there are a few variations. Here's one my mother makes at home to delight my tastebuds every now and then.
Wash the uncooked poha and let it dry. Heat oil in a pan and add some mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, add vegetables like peas, beans, carrots, green chillies, a bit of ginger, chopped tomatoes and shredded coconut. Add salt and turmeric. Mix well and cook on low heat. When you see the water drying, add the poha and stir it to mix with the rest of the ingredients for about 2-3 minutes. Take it out on a plate and garnish with more chooped green chillies, shredded coconut and curry leaves.
Serve hot, and if you're hosting me, I would prefer a cup of tea with it.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Mission Milk RiceHurray! The first cultural exchange via this blog happened last week. Since the Milk Rice recipe sounded so easy to make, I decided to try it out. For a food-lover who is kitchen-shy (yes, I admit), preparing any delicacy is not short of a feat. And the simple-sounding Milk Rice was no exception.
To begin with, I didn't put enough water in the pan for the rice to boil nicely. So there was a bit of delay getting the rice fully cooked. Next was emptying the condensed milk tin into the rice. Fairly simple you would say, eh? Well, you should have seen the war between the tin and self. It was a battle royale, and to my frustration, the tin can kept winning. An enormous struggle and a dozen bad words against the tin company later, I could finally extract its contents. Phew! The big part of the fight was over. Now it was just a matter of adding those cups of water to cook the rice and milk. This time, I went a little overboard. The result? Those of you who cook can well imagine--the rice took ages getting condensed like Cesar had suggested. At one point I wondered if it would thicken at all (call me stupid, I really won't mind). To my wonder and amazement, it actually did! That's when I added pistachios to it. Then, turning off the fire, I sprinkled the jewel on the crown--cinnamon powder.
I was apprehensive how it would be received by the sweet-tooth public I was going to subject with it. My first victim...er, taster was a friend who came for lunch with us. Her reaction? Delight and an immediate demand for the recipe. Voila! She made my day. More tasters followed and the reactions were equally sweet (literally). For me the biggest compliment was that the entire lot I made (and I made a LOT) was polished off by various sweet-lovers, and that I myself got to taste just a little.
Just so you know, I would like to tell you India has a number of desserts using milk and rice. The only difference is we use regular milk instead of the condensed version used in Cesar's recipe.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Peruvian Dish - Milk RiceOk, this is an easy one even sucky cooks like me can work out. This is a typical dish from Lima (the capital city in the coast of Peru). Lima is famous for a large variety of desserts all of which are pretty simple and very sweet.
Milk Rice (Arroz con Leche) is basically white rice with condensed milk. Yes, that's it. You cook some white rice (1/2 cup), preferable a type with a thick grain with a dash of salt and a cinammon splinter (for those who dont know how to cook rice... hey it happens to the best of us, just drop it into boling water (1 1/2 cups) until the water is absorbed, takes like 5 minutes). Once the rice is soft and dry you add a can of condensed milk and then add 3 cans of water (using the empty can of condensed milk). Then just cook on a low fire stirring every now and then until it's thick. A cool variation is to drop some shredded cocont into the mix and some raisins. Serve warm (or cold, it's tasty anyway really). Sprinkle powder cinammon on top.
Try it sometime :)
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Mango ManiaClimb up the stairs every morning and evening to arrive on the open terrace, meet friends from the neighbouring apartments as they moved to their terraces too, and pluck unripe mangoes from the tree that had its branches reaching out to our terrace area--this was among my favourite summer vacation activites when I was in junior school.
After we had collected a bunch of small-sized unripe mangoes, we would peel them off with a knife, cut them into small pieces and smear them with salt and red chilly powder for a terrace feast. The extreme sourness of the mangoes added that extra punch we needed for summertime goofing off.
Mangoes then, are one of my earliest images of the summer season. I never remember plucking a ripe mango on the terrace though. The ripe ones, we bought from the market. Back then, we had no fridge and the mangoes would be soaked in a bucket of water. You could take one out peel it nicely and savour it with a fork, or, as we were more prone to do, you just picked one out of the bucket, used your nails to take off the skin, and just bit into the juicy flesh. Mmm...pure joy, dripping from the fruit and into your mouth. Once I had finished relishing almost the entire fruit and came to the hard seed part, I would suck vigorously, until the last bit of juice was drained off it. My sessions with the fruit rarely stopped at one mango, back in my younger days...
It's not just me though. Come summer, the whole of India is gripped by a severe mango fever. The country produces more than 30 different types of the fruit--all with a distinct flavour and smell. In fact even the word Mango comes for the Tamil (one of India's earliest languages) word "Man Kay".
The types we grew up on are Dussheri, Langda, Safeda and Chausa, all produced mostly in northern India. It's really tough for me to pick a favourite amongst these. For if Dussheri allures with its sweetness, Langda entices with its refreshing smell and tangy flavour. Over the years though, I have veered towards the Chausa, for it's unfailing deliciousness. I share with you a few slices of the same here.
The best compliment I have heard for this king of fruits comes from the legendary Urdu poet, Mirza Ghalib. It is said once when the poet was enjoying mangoes in the company of his friens, a donkey came by them. After sniffing around a bit, the animal just walked away. So the only person in the group who didn't eat mangoes remarked that even donkeys don't eat mangoes.
"Yes," replied Ghalib. "Only donkeys don't eat mangoes." Expectedly, there was an uproar of laughter.
No offence to donkeys, by the way ;)